An autocrat in the White House

It is very doubtful if the founding fathers of the United States, who sat for days in a hall in Philadelphia in 1776, trying to figure out how to build a country where office holders are elected and subjected to periodic elections, ever imagined that there would be a time that the occupant of the White House will be so erratic and unconventional to circumvent all known norms of decency and traditions that bound the country together for centuries.

I don’t think they ever thought there will be a time that a duly elected president’s behavior and actions would pose an existential threat to a democratic experiment that became the envy of most countries in the world for more than two hundred years.

They never thought that democratic institutions and structures that had long proved to be a stonewall against autocracy would be so weak in the face of a demagogic, racist and unpretentious leader.

Sadly, this is what is currently playing out in the United States, where the President, Donald Trump has gone mad; doing things that were hitherto unthinkable of the leader of the free world and getting away with it.

For now, even though the media and the opposition Democratic Party have tried in the past three years to hold him accountable, his party, the Republicans, have largely kept quiet or have been openly supportive of what many believed to be actions that are clearly inimical to the very foundation of America’s democracy.

For those of us who are more than casual observers  of America’s democratic and it’s inimitable features, I was not particularly disposed to the emergence of Trump at the White House.

With the way and manner he conducted himself during the campaign; the way he was abusing his opponents and the racist and sexist remarks that characterised his major events, I knew ab initio that he would be one of the worst presidents that the country has ever seen.

I went as far as telling my friends in New York in 2015 that if by chance Trump becomes the president, the American democratic brand will be so destroyed that it would take years for it to be regenerated.

So, even though I am not totally surprised with the way things turned out under the Trump presidency, I had thought that the system had a solid rock shock absorber, or if you like, check and balances, to stop an erratic and autocratic leader from making the country a banana republic.

Yes, a banana republic, that is what might likely be the end result of where Trump is pushing the country if the Republicans and the electorate do not stand up and push him out of the White House in November.

And the danger here is that none of the leading members of his party, Republican, has been willing to challenge him in any way except perhaps Senator Mitt Romney.

In a country where everything is politicised, Trump has succeeded in using division, outright threat and even blackmail to have his way and by extension, divide the country. His tweets are as divisive as his rhetoric; and just like Senator Bob Crocker said few months ago, “Trump has turned the White House to an adult daycare centre”.

Of course, Trump ensured that, just like others who stood up to him, Crocker did not get reelected. With this kind of treatment, others who were thinking of challenging a president that has become uncontrollable, neatly beat a retreat.

What really brought to fore the dangers the Trump presidency posed to America was the death two weeks ago of a black American, George Floyd, who was choked to death in Minnesota by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes until he passed out.

Rather than unite the nation by providing the needed leadership, Trump had instead and predictably, been inflaming division and even threatening to use the military against peaceful marchers who were protesting the brutal and mindless killing, something that was unheard of in a country where protest is an integral part of the democratic process.

From directing the military, police and National Guard to push and tear-gassed protesters to enabled to walk through the White House, to taking photo ops with a Bible in a church; from abusing retired Generals who called him to order, to twitting hate, divisive and abusive posts by conservative elements; from outright ignorance and not listening to experts, to spreading lies and untruths.

And from calling the media fake news, to his utmost disregard for decency and integrity. The list of his absurdities is endless. It goes on and on and he has been able to get away with it because the Grand Old Party (GOP) leadership is afraid of checkmating him.

The country and its political system have been worse for it. Needless to say that the interventions of former president George W. Bush and Barack Obama have also been met with abusive tweets of a visibly enraged Trump.

History has shown that the easiest way for authoritarianism and dictatorship to flourish is for viable institutions to be cowed while people who are supposed to speak out stand aloof.

In this case, the Republican Party, party of Abraham Lincoln and just recently, that of Ronald Reagan, has been turned to the party of Trump.

Trump’s domination of the party  is such that majority of the members will never see anything wrong with what he does or say. The evangelical Christians and Bible Belts see him as a messiah and they have in turn been compensated with appointment of conservative judges.

Since it’s unlikely that Trump will change to a better and pragmatic president, the American people will have to decide his future in November. I don’t think the American people and the world can afford another four years of this unstable mind.

All the notable agreements signed by his predecessor, Obama, meant to make the world a better and a safer place, have been cancelled. Just few days ago, Trump pulled the United States out of the World Health Organisation (WHO), in the midst of a devastating global pandemic.

But thank goodness that the Democrats and well meaning Americans are coalescing behind former Vice-President Joe Biden for the next election.

Even so, it should be a payback time for those who shut their eyes while the most corrupt, inept and debauch president in modern American history desecrate the constitution.

Most of the Republican senators should not be allowed to come back to serve as a lesson to other bystanders, that “the hottest part in hell should be reserved for those who failed to intervene in times of crisis”.